(Reuters) - Authorities can continue to forcibly medicate accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner at a Missouri prison hospital to prepare him for trial, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday in denying a request by his attorneys to end the treatment.
The 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a district court judge's decision that allowed for Loughner to be given psychotropic drugs against his will.
Loughner is charged with opening fire on a crowd outside a Tucson supermarket in January 2011, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in May 2011 declared Loughner mentally incompetent to stand trial, however, citing the conclusions of two medical experts that he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.
Attorneys for college dropout Loughner, 23, had called the judge's finding "legally erroneous" and asked the appeals court to put a stop to the forced medication regimen.
Judge Jay Bybee wrote in his majority opinion on Monday that evidence supports the district court's "finding that there is a substantial probability that Loughner will be restored to competency in the foreseeable future."
Giffords, a Democrat, resigned from the House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Paul Thomasch)